The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

April 9, 2018 by  
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New reports show that nearly twice as much crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November than originally estimated. TransCanada spokesperson Robynn Tysver said that roughly 9,700 barrels of oil leaked instead of the estimated 5,000 barrels. This new information means the leak is among the biggest onshore spills in the United States since 2010. There are 42 gallons in one barrel of oil, so instead of 210,000 gallons as was originally estimated, around 407,700 gallons leaked in what TransCanada refers to as the Amherst incident . This means the spill was the “seventh largest onshore oil or petroleum product spills” reported to the United States Department of Transportation since 2010, according to Aberdeen American News. Related: Keystone 1 oil pipeline leaks 210,000 gallons days ahead of Keystone XL permit decision TransCanada started utilizing the pipeline again 12 days following the leak. Tysver told American News, “The remediation work on the property has been completed. We have replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.” The Amherst incident cost the company around $9.57 million, according to the news publication, citing an updated pipeline safety administration report. TransCanada said on their website they sampled groundwater at 12 monitoring wells and there “was no impact to groundwater.” The Keystone Pipeline connects oil fields in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States; Reuters described it as a 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline. Aberdeen American News said according to a preliminary report, the pipe may have been damaged in 2008, during construction. Reuters said they had reviewed documents revealing Keystone has leaked far more oil, and more frequently, “than the company indicated to regulators in risk assessments” before operations started in 2010. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration , part of the Department of Transportation, could release the final report on the leak in the upcoming few weeks. Via Aberdeen News and Reuters Images via TransCanada

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The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

April 9, 2018 by  
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As if the world didn’t have enough dictators to worry about, Elon Musk  says that our future authoritarian leaders will be AI. Musk has previously warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence , particularly if control of it is concentrated the hands of a power-hungry global elite. He suggests that an AI dictator would know everything about us (thanks to being connected to computers across the planet), would be more dangerous to the world than North Korea and would unleash “weapons of terror” that could lead to the next world war. To top it all off, unlike human dictators, an AI dictator would never die. According to Musk, this dark future awaits us if we don’t regulate AI. “The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world,” Musk said in the new documentary  Do You Trust This Computer ? “At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.” The documentary in which Musk is quoted focuses on several potentially hazardous applications of artificial intelligence, including the stock market, fake news algorithms, and autonomous weapons. In the film, Musk cites Google ‘s DeepMind project as an example of a powerful company in pursuit of superintelligence, or AI that is truly smarter than a human being. DeepMind has already achieved several milestones, including the 2016 defeat of world champion Lee Se-dol by AlphaGo in the board game Go. “The DeepMind system can win at any game ,” explained Musk. “It can already beat all the original Atari games. It is super human; it plays all the games at super speed in less than a minute.” Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Musk clarifies that this is not necessarily a question of good or evil, at least regarding the AI itself. “If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings,” Musk said. “It’s just like, if we’re building a road and an anthill just happens to be in the way, we don’t hate ants , we’re just building a road, and so, goodbye anthill.” Musk suggests that humans ultimately incorporate artificial intelligence into their very being to avoid becoming redundant. Putting his money where his mouth is, Musk is the co-founder of Neuralink that is reportedly interested in accomplishing Musk’s goal of merging the human brain to a computer. Via CNBC Images via  Steve Jurvetson/Flickr   WebSummit/Flickr and Depositphotos

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Elon Musk warns AI could become an immortal’ digital dictator

The CO2 intensity of the US power sector just hit a record low

April 9, 2018 by  
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Renewable energy is winning again. The Power Sector Carbon Index just revealed that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions intensity is the lowest on record. Thanks to government policy, market forces and new technologies, energy companies have moved away from carbon-intensive coal and towards cleaner, greener energy like renewables and natural gas. And the numbers aren’t insignificant – 13 years ago, carbon intensity was nearly 27% higher than it is now. Carbon emissions intensity is the rate of emissions produced relative to the amount of energy that we get from it. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) released their 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index — which tracks power producers’ environmental performance in the United States, and compares today’s emissions to over 20 years of historical data. Assistant professor Costa Samaras said in a statement , “The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index provides a snapshot of critical data regarding energy production and environmental performance. We’ve found this index to provide significant insight into trends in power generation and emissions. In particular, the data have shown that emissions intensity has fallen to the lowest level on record, as a combination of natural gas and renewable power have displaced more carbon-intensive coal -fired power generation.” Related: 104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy Specifically, emissions of power plants in America averaged 967 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) last year. That figure is 3.1 percent lower than 2016, and 26.8 percent lower than in 2005, “often used as a benchmark year for measuring progress made in reducing emissions,” according to the university. The 2017 fourth quarter (Q4) update from the university, also posted in early April, offers more insight into how renewables are playing a role. In Q4, power plant emissions actually averaged 952 pounds of CO2 per MWh. And compared against 2016 Q4, in 2017 Q4 coal generation dropped six percent, natural gas was up four percent, nuclear up four percent, hydro up one percent, wind up 13 percent, and solar up 30 percent. MHPS Americas CEO Paul Browning said, “The power industry has made significant progress in reducing emissions for over a decade, as new technology, state and federal policies and market forces have increased power generation from natural gas and renewables, and decreased power generation from coal.” + Power Sector Carbon Index + Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering + Power Sector Carbon Index — 2017 Q4 Update Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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The CO2 intensity of the US power sector just hit a record low

Thoreau’s Walden Pond is under threat from human activities

April 6, 2018 by  
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In his book first published as  Walden; or, Life in the Woods , transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau reflected on living simply in green spaces while cultivating self-sufficiency and carefully observing the natural world. His reflections were informed by his experiences living in a cabin near the edge of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts . Today, Walden Pond remains a cherished local landmark, where people enjoy hiking and swimming. However, since Thoreau’s time, Walden Pond has suffered from climate change,  erosion  and even human pee. In the mid-1800s, Thoreau described the “crystalline purity” of the water in Walden Pond, a characteristic still observable today. However, that may soon change as the effects of climate change take hold. In  a recently published paper on the environmental health of Walden Pond , researchers concluded that major changes in the algal content of the lake began in the 20th century and continue to threaten it today. According to the paper, “The sediment darkening and high percentages of [ algae ] in the recent sediments of Walden Pond … indicate not only that the lake ecosystem is now quite different from that described by Thoreau but also that it may be primed for more severe reductions in water clarity in a warming future.” Related: Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock As global temperatures continue to rise , more people looking for relief from the humid summer weather in Massachusetts may find their way into the pond for a refreshing dip. Researchers concluded that more than half of the phosphorous content in the pond “may now be attributable to urine released by swimmers.” The good news is that Walden Pond has seen its environmental health improve in recent decades. However, vigilance is necessary to preserve Walden for future generations. Via The Guardian Images via Ekabhishek , Terryballard and Cbaile19

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Thoreau’s Walden Pond is under threat from human activities

The world’s first space hotel could launch by 2022

April 6, 2018 by  
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We’ve all heard of the companies promising to launch humans on trips to space , but have you thought about where you will stay once you get there? Startup Orion Span thinks they have the answer – and they’re planning to launch a luxury space hotel into orbit in the next few years. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, start saving your pennies – a 12-night stay will set you back a mere $9.5 million PER PERSON. But don’t worry, the price includes transportation, food and drinks, and a three-month training course. The Aurora Station hotel will be able to accommodate four guests at a time, plus two crew members. The station will float above the Earth in low orbit (about 200 miles above the planet – 50 miles below the ISS) and the company claims it will be ready to start hosting guests by 2022. That’s extremely soon – keep in mind that other companies have set lofty goals for space hotels that didn’t quite get realized . The company plans to start with one station and expand as demand grows. If you want to book your stay right away, 80k will hold you a spot until the hotel is built and launched. Related: Elon Musk says trips to Mars coming as soon as next year Speaking of, Orion Span hasn’t provided much in the way of details for its space hotel. For instance, the company says it plans to manufacture the station at a Houston facility that hasn’t been built yet. Nor has it disclosed how it plans to transport people to the station – it seems likely that it will team up with one of the companies who is developing private space travel. Even still, it’s a pretty exciting idea, and not a bad price considering that it costs $81 million for an astronaut to hitch a ride to the ISS on a Russian rocket. Via Engadget Images via Orion Span

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The world’s first space hotel could launch by 2022

U.S. Superfund sites offer lessons for the future

March 30, 2018 by  
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Superfund sites are being repurposed as recreational areas, renewable energy facilities and more.

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U.S. Superfund sites offer lessons for the future

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing at an exponential rate

March 22, 2018 by  
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Scientists recently found that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – now three times the size of France – is showing signs of exponential growth. In a new study published in the journal Nature , researchers provide a detailed analysis of the garbage patch after a monumental effort that required two planes and 18 boats to complete. “We wanted to have a clear, precise picture of what the patch looked like,” Laurent Lebreton, study lead author and lead oceanographer for the Ocean Cleanup Foundation , told the Washington Post . The study estimates that the mass of the garbage patch is four to sixteen times bigger than previously thought, highlighting the urgency of confronting global plastic pollution. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation worked in collaboration with scientists from New Zealand , the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Denmark . The study provides an in-depth account of the mass concentration within the Garbage Patch. Although the mass of the Garbage Patch appears to be growing, the study concludes that the area of the patch has remained relatively stable. This means that the Garbage Patch is simply becoming more dense. Related: The Ocean Cleanup launches San Francisco base in Pacific trash-busting bid The study also found that 46% of the Pacific Garbage Patch’s mass is composed of disposed fishing nets. “This suggests we might be underestimating how much fishing debris is floating in the oceans,” Chelsea Rochman, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who studies marine plastic but was not associated with the study, told the Washington Post . “Entanglement and smothering from nets is one of the most detrimental observed effects we see in nature.” For all of the garbage floating in the Patch, scientists expect that much of the world’s plastic pollution is sinking, with much of that damage happening out of sight. + Nature Via the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos (1) and the Ocean Cleanup Foundation

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing at an exponential rate

Scientists have a plan to cool the Earth with a sprinkle of salt

March 22, 2018 by  
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Could salt help soothe our climate woes? Senior scientist Robert Nelson of the Planetary Science Institute seems to think so. At a recent Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas, Nelson suggested that sprinkling salt above clouds could hold off sunlight and cool our planet, according to Science Magazine . But as with many geoengineering ideas, this one isn’t without controversy. Finely powdered salt injected into the upper troposphere might help humanity stave off some of the impacts of climate change, according to Nelson. His suggestion isn’t too far off those of other scientists who want to introduce microscopic particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunshine into space , imitating the impact of volcanic eruptions that have served to temporarily cool Earth. But his might be more benign than others, Science Magazine said. The senior scientist tossed out alumina or sulfur dioxide: the first could lead to chronic disease, embedding in our lungs if we inhaled it; the second could lead to acid rain or erode the ozone layer. Related: Trump administration could open door to geoengineering Instead, he turned to salt: it’s more reflective than alumina, according to Science Magazine, and harmless for people. Nelson also thinks if salt were crushed into tiny particles in the correct shape and diffused randomly, the mineral wouldn’t block infrared heat the Earth releases. Volcanologist Matthew Watson of the University of Bristol is one scientist who has called out potential problems with Nelson’s approach. He led an ultimately canceled geoengineering experiment, in which his team considered injecting salt in the stratosphere. But the substance contains a lot of chlorine , which he said could help destroy ozone. With limited amounts of water in the stratosphere, and salt so attracted to it, even a small amount could impact the formation of wispy clouds; we have know idea what consequences this would trigger. Nelson might be able to address issues by injecting salt into the upper troposphere instead of the stratosphere — at least, that’s what he hopes. But he said we should still work to curb carbon emissions , saying, “This would be a palliative, not a [long-term] solution.” Via Science Magazine Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Scientists have a plan to cool the Earth with a sprinkle of salt

This Just In: Shampoo Produces Air Pollution?

March 22, 2018 by  
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When we talk air pollution, it’s standard to take a … The post This Just In: Shampoo Produces Air Pollution? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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This Just In: Shampoo Produces Air Pollution?

Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

March 21, 2018 by  
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Researchers have calculated that stronger climate regulations across the globe could help prevent up to 150 million premature deaths. Much of the public health benefits of strictly regulating greenhouse gases would be concentrated in South Asia, with nearly 13 million lives spared in large Indian cities alone if air pollution is curtailed. Cairo, Egypt and Lagos, Nigeria would also experience more than 2 million fewer deaths under strong international greenhouse gas regulation. While the Clean Air Act has improved public health outcomes in the United States, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved in the cities of Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta , Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington if stricter greenhouse gas regulations were implemented. “Americans don’t really grasp how pollution impacts their lives,” study lead author Drew Shindell told the Washington Post . “You say, ‘My uncle went to the hospital and died of a heart attack.’ You don’t say the heart attack was caused by air pollution, so we don’t know. It’s still a big killer here. It’s much bigger than from people who die from plane crashes or war or terrorism, but we don’t see the link so clearly.” Related: Despite Trump’s rhetoric, US officials are still working to stop climate change To determine the public health benefits of stricter greenhouse gas regulations, the research team created computer simulations of future emissions and pollutants. According to a statement , they then “calculated the human health impacts of pollution exposure under each scenario all over the world — but focusing on results in major cities — using well-established epidemiological models based on decades of public health data on air-pollution related deaths.” However promising the benefits of strong climate change regulations may be, time is running out, says Shindell. “There’s got to be a significant amount of progress within the 2020s or it’s too late.” Via the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

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